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The Price of Lippage

Posted by Trebruchet (loosedeckcannon@gmail.com) on
Fri, Aug 1, 14 at 12:06

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This is the price you pay for "lippage". Lippage is when tile are not set flush to each other. If you've got a natural stone floor, it can often be ground flush and polished, but if you've got tile, no such luck.

Yes, these tile can be replaced, but I can't guarantee I can eliminate the lippage without removing the adjacent tile and I can't guarantee I can remove the lippage from them, so when does it end? The adjacent tile dictates the placement of the replacement tile.

Yeah, I know your old uncle Guido could lay dead flat tile by eye. Unfortunately, an illegal alien has replaced him and since he's getting paid by the square foot instead of the hour, the faster he goes, the more money he makes. In combination with customer greed for the lowest price, this creates a huge conflict of interest. Depending on the tile, this probably won't be noticed until the check has cleared.

You can stare at the chipped tiles for a decade or so and have the price of a replacement floor, 20K, deducted from the sale price of your home, that's what this homeowner chose, or you can have replacements installed for 10% of that and hope the buyer's inspector doesn't notice the match of the replacement tile and grout.

The saddest thing is that this is completely avoidable with modern tile leveling systems:

Here is a link that might be useful: Raimondi


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: The Price of Lippage

First of all, I object to the phrase, "customer greed." It's called capitalism, I'm a fan, and all of us who have benefitted from it acknowledge there can be a downside. Obviously the homeowner is paying for it on both ends, install and repair, so the system self-corrects.

Secondly, there are types of tile, usually rectified, large formate tiles, that are prone to lippage, i.e., they're not perfectly flat, and other tiles that are less likely to have the problem. True pros can lay a reasonably flat floor regardless. DIYers and lesser installers can't handle the former. It's up to the homeowner to know his materials and installers, and their respective limitations, and choose accordingly. But who here has asked what kind of leveling system their tile guy is going to use?

I've had plenty of horror stories of bad installations performed by expensive professionals that came highly recommended. I don't blame installer greed, just ignorance, and I usually blame myself in the end. I've had the door to the back of my home installed three times, and I'm the least greedy person I know.

This post was edited by EAM44 on Fri, Aug 1, 14 at 12:50


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RE: The Price of Lippage

EAM44:

I never claimed I was exempt from "customer greed". I hired a guy to polish my concrete floors at $4.00 a foot when everyone else was about double. I've got pictures of the concrete slurry in my bathtub and receipts from the plumber to remove the concrete chips from my sewer line. My butt's still stinging and that was almost two years ago. The urge to "save money" can delude us all.

"But who here has asked what kind of leveling system their tile guy is going to use?"

Excellent question. Hopefully, readers of this post will ask.


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RE: The Price of Lippage

the problem with the assumption that this was done on the cheap is that it may not have been. i went to a tile store that had a good rep and paid for them to do an install in a small bathroom. it was twice what i saw hd advertising and they didn't do it right. of course, i knew nothing at the time but i now have lippage and cracking grout because they didn't put down backer/cement board. i got played.


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RE: The Price of Lippage

I wonder if you got out the luminol from your CSI kit and sprayed it on that grout and lippage if you find blood from stubbed toes past?


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RE: The Price of Lippage

Ouch!
We had the local tile wizard price out doing our kitchen. Even with a new subfloor and shimming, the floor was wonky. He covered two methods of leveling, and it would have been crazy expensive for a small kitchen (and seemed even stranger with the inexpensive tile we bought). So off the tile went to Craigslist, and in went a wood floor.

We'll hire him for the blackspash when we figure that out and for a bathroom.

I'm sure glad we didn't do the original DYI plan. We'd be stubbing toes or dealing with cracked grout even with 6x6 tile.


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RE: The Price of Lippage

You are so right Trebruchet, the old artisans are just not out there anymore. I don't think anyone knows how to do anything anymore or they simply don't care. It's a jungle out there. It's not just tile, it seems across the board in every area. My father-in-law's name is Vito but he doesn't do tile, lol.


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RE: The Price of Lippage

gr8day:

Oh, we're out there, but so are our prices. I so tire of hearing of a lack of crafts people. There is a lack of customers willing to pay what it takes.

Furthermore, there is a large lack of social status in the trades. When you want your daughter to grow up to marry a carpenter instead of a doctor or lawyer, we'll know the problem has been solved.


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RE: The Price of Lippage

>> Oh, we're out there, but so are our prices. I so tire of hearing of a lack of crafts people. There is a lack of customers willing to pay what it takes.

This is my normal response to coworkers who ask why I'm still here instead of building, putting in tile or whatnot. Most people want quick and they want low cost. In historic or higher end areas that may not be the case but that's a much smaller market.

Also I enjoy insurance and vacation days.


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RE: The Price of Lippage

"Furthermore, there is a large lack of social status in the trades. When you want your daughter to grow up to marry a carpenter instead of a doctor or lawyer, we'll know the problem has been solved."

Maybe avoiding death or jail motivates people to justify the high price tags associated with doctors and lawyers.


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RE: The Price of Lippage

For what it's worth, I asked my contractor to level the concrete slab first before laying 16" square gauged slate tiles and they insisted that all they needed to do was jackhammer a few high spots and patch them. We had a lot of back-and-forth about it.

It wasn't that I was trying to get it done cheap, it was more that my regular guy who was better at listening and being flexible was not available and I was having trouble finding someone as good. I settled and I got a less-than-great tile job.

Oh and PS--years ago I hired some drywallers who had been around a long time. One of their younger workers bragged to me about how they don't use "people who can't speak English". They did a mediocre (at best) job hanging and taping and left a huge mess every day, including leaving their lunch trash on the floor. Then to my surprise (given what he'd said), another crew entirely showed up to do the sanding. They were Latinos and didn't speak English too well. They did a beautiful job AND cleaned up all the trash and didn't leave their 7-11 Big Slurpee cups on the floor. Just saying.


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RE: The Price of Lippage

"Most people want quick and they want low cost. In historic or higher end areas that may not be the case but that's a much smaller market."

And why the tradespeople / craftsmen have lowered their quality levels. They have families too feed and trucks to pay for. There are not a lot of business savvy guys that take a long view and are willing to forego short term revenue to gain market share when the hacks move on. Lot harder to convince wives and kids than it is shareholders.

That strategy is even questionable given "people want quick and they want low cost "

I blame the remodeling porn industry. Everyone that watches the stuff thinks they can have a luxury bathroom or kitchen in a weekend for $8 and a bit of hammer wielding.

What they don't see is the crappy tile jobs with lipage or grout that's falling out. They also don't see the horrific paint jobs which have lint from cheap rollers and wavy edge intersections or......the plumbing stuck together with chewing gum, and the sub standard electrical work.

But, that fancy pants Wolf range or DornBracht faucet look S P E C T A C U L A R !!!

And after the porn fanatics scrimp to pay for ranges and faucets they can't really afford, there literally isn't any money to pay someone to install them - let alone properly, or by someone who cares and takes pride in their work. I see it all the time.


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RE: The Price of Lippage

You know, its not always a matter of people wanting low cost ... often it is all they can afford. I agree 100% that a certain level of craftsmanship comes at a cost that not everyone can afford to pay. But I see here all the time people complaining about their lousy craftsmanship and others jumping in to say, "Don't pay them ... make them do it over." And others saying, "You got what you paid for."

What's a person to do? It's all very confusing and there are lots of mixed messages flying around. It's unrealistic to tell people that they are going to get top quality craftsmanship at a cheap price, but I see it happen here all the time.

I agree with xedos ... contractors have to compensate somewhere. If you need to put food on the table, you might not have another choice but to take a job at less money than you should. So they might not take as much care to make sure every tile doesn't have lippage, or their grout joints might not be perfectly and exactly even, but so what? The customer is getting a cut in price, and they are still getting an acceptable, if not perfect, job. Then they come on here and post a picture of a bit of lippage and everyone starts bashing the contractor for doing crappy work or bashing the customer for not paying enough. Why not just say, "It's not perfect, but it's perfectly acceptable given the circumstances."


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RE: The Price of Lippage

" Why not just say, "It's not perfect, but it's perfectly acceptable given the circumstances."

I worked on that project today and I'm finishing it tomorrow. Homeowners hired hacks to recycle granite which they installed BEFORE they changed the edge profiles to match.They said doing it in the house was no problem. The bullnose just stops mid-edge. Fortunately, they didn't know about methelmethacrylate seams and used silicone topically so I could easily get the sections back outside.

Out of plane, out of square, out of level, plumbing drains going uphill, you name it and this job's got it. It's also got a budget and it's a tight one. I kept telling myself that the seam in the 5/8" wide super glued edge I had to add was good enough; there's just not enough money to be fussy.


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You can't make this stuff up. Brown silicone seam; returned edge becomes finished front edge. Okay, in all fairness, they were nice and flush.

This post was edited by Trebruchet on Sat, Aug 2, 14 at 17:25


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RE: The Price of Lippage

And why the tradespeople / craftsmen have lowered their quality levels.

How exactly does a craftsman lower his quality level? Does he really say "I am not getting paid enough so I am going to do a crappy job here?" I believe that someone who is a true craftsman would never lower his standards even if he is working for peanuts. if he accepts the job, he will do it to the highest standards he is capable of.

I just wanted to add that I have noticed that sometimes tradespeople will give a low estimate just because they want the job. Then when the owner accepts they get mad at themselves because they realize they should have gone higher and get attitudinal about it. All I ask is that a trades person gives an honest price whatever that may be and let me, the homeowner, judge whether I want to pursue it or not.

We have had to ask contractors this question a few times in the last few years: "And how much would it have cost for you to do the job correctly".

This post was edited by jerzeegirl on Sat, Aug 2, 14 at 17:57


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RE: The Price of Lippage

"How exactly does a craftsman lower his quality level? Does he really say "I am not getting paid enough so I am going to do a crappy job here?" I believe that someone who is a true craftsman would never lower his standards even if he is working for peanuts. if he accepts the job, he will do it to the highest standards he is capable of."

Lets say a tile guy comes to your house and determines that your floor is pretty wavy and needs to be leveled out before laying the tile in order to give you a nice, flat installation. But you have a very limited budget and just want some tile put in. So he tells you fine, he can lay the tile without leveling the floor, but it's not going to be perfect. You agree, you get the floor, it's not perfect, but it's acceptable.

I'm not talking about a CRAPPY job or just throwing the tile in. I'm talking about an acceptable job for the amount of money the customer is willing to part with. He's still going to do the job to the best of his ability given what he has to work with with. What's not acceptable is for a customer to expect the top quality installation when the customer isn't willing or able to pay the price for it. If it is going to cost the contractor extra time and materials to do a near-perfect installation, why should he do it for free just to maintain his claim to "true craftsman" status? It's a compromise.


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Au contraire. No one is forcing him to take the job if he realizes he can't be successful. He would say this is my price and I can't do it for less because I have to level the floor. Who would lay a tile floor on a surface that isn't level? A hack but definitely not someone who cares about his work. Eventually, doing half-azzed jobs would ruin his reputation. There's really no half-way in tile laying; it's either perfect or you see the mistakes. I admit I am spoiled because my tile guy is a true artisan. Believe me, the perfectionists in this town are not wanting for work - just get in line to wait for them.


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Well, thankfully for the person who can't afford the best, there are people who will do an acceptable, affordable job within the confines of what a customer is willing to pay. Not everyone in every market at every time gets to pick and choose the best, most well-paying customers. Most people who work in the trades are working for a LIVING which means they have mouths to feed, bills to pay, etc. If they need a paycheck and a customer can only afford so much, they will give the customer what they can pay for. Maybe they can't afford the luxury of waiting around for that rare customer who can afford the best of everything. And maybe the customer can't afford the luxury of saving their whole lives to get a tile floor.

It is completely unrealistic to think that someone is going to get perfection, much less perfection at a cheap price. If you have found otherwise, you are the exception, not the rule.


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I learned the hard way when tiling my two small foyer areas that tiling a floor requires expertise. I hope I have someone good to do the tile in my kitchen. Now I hope I am doing the right thing by keeping the tile and not just putting wood in my kitchen.


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It is completely unrealistic to think that someone is going to get perfection,

That what my kitchen contractor said right before I fired him.


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Greed is "a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed." Do you possibly mean that people are cheap (or that work is done on the cheap) derived from the Latin caupo meaning tradesman, "at minimum expense." Wanting good work at a good price isn't greed, it's frugality, from the Latin frugalis meaning virtuous, "reflecting economy in the use of resources."

Treb, you're awesome at what you do, but you have to admit that in the trades quality of workmanship is not predicted by price. You can pay an arm and a leg and still get a bad result, and not only can it happen, it has happened to every person on this site.

In medicine a board certified physician has up to nine years of post-college mastery of his field before he practices independently. Anyone can pick up a tool and market himself as a tile guy, or a drywaller. Anyone. And even licensed tradesmen don't transplant hearts and quiet seizures. Medicine and carpentry don't have social parity because they aren't equal.

Carpentry is more like engineering and art, don't you think? If it makes you feel any better, no one wants their kids to marry artists either, which is a shame.


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"Treb, you're awesome at what you do, but you have to admit that in the trades quality of workmanship is not predicted by price."

Thanks, and I agree that price does not guarantee quality.

Anyone who believes in a trades person always doing his best no matter the circumstances doesn't know the first thing about business. It isn't about quality, it's always about value.


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"Out of plane, out of square, out of level, plumbing drains going uphill, you name it and this job's got it. It's also got a budget and it's a tight one. I kept telling myself that the seam in the 5/8" wide super glued edge I had to add was good enough; there's just not enough money to be fussy."

I still say that homeowners often have to share the blame for such shoddy workmanship, because if the budget is REALLY that tight to trade quality craftsmanship for higher-end materials that is just backwards and upside-down from my perspective. For instance, I would MUCH rather have a laminate counter installed if it meant I could afford better construction.


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"Anyone who believes in a trades person always doing his best no matter the circumstances doesn't know the first thing about business. It isn't about quality, it's always about value."

I think the difference is in the type of workers/people - a "tradesman", a "craftsman" or "artisan" (who could be in the trades), and a professional. They have different internal goals and mentalities, which they cannot separate themselves from.

Agree with EAMM and Jerzee. Other side is right too though. But get the irresponsible hacks who are somehow able to sell themselves as pros off the street.


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RE: The Price of Lippage

I dont think anyone is talking about hacks or shoddy workmanship. There are many degrees of workmanship in between. Artisans and craftsman have to eat, too. They can and they do make compromises all the time and if you think that makes them hacks then i guess thats why there are so few "true craftsmen" left in your idealized worlds where money doesn't matter.

This post was edited by jellytoast on Sun, Aug 3, 14 at 21:36


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RE: The Price of Lippage

"Does he really say "I am not getting paid enough so I am going to do a crappy job here?"

Yep - that's what some of them do say - except more colorfully.

Remember, everyone's standards are different. Some are just satisfied that you did a decent job on time for the price you said you would. Some want Manolo Blahnik shoes but only have have the cash for Nordstrom Rack shoes and think the tradesmen should pony up the difference because they are lucky to still have their jobs after the big melt down. Still others are so particular that they cannot be satisfied at any price.

In order to compete tradesmen will use a 4 shutoff made in the far east that has questionable quality and longevity instead of the $12 shutoff that is made domestically and will last 25 years.

They'll not own or upgrade their tooling and cutting blades so that the seams on those counter are crappy to you guys looking at the big city showhouses that have countertop budgets of $20k.

They won't invest in their education and training to even know that their diamond blade is crappy or that failure of just one of those $4 valves will negate their entire year's savings.

Let's look at it another way. What do you suppose makes up the vast majority of the fee difference between two plastic surgeons on a facelift ? Because one has a 2nd home payment in Aspen and the other only has a fishing cabin at the local Lake ???

Think any of them have done every done a "crappy" job on someone's face ? Think the fee for that job was more than your month's lunch money ?

Why do you suppose some lawyers with 20 years experience charge $800+ an hour and some are only $250 ? Both can talk a judge's ear off and know where to find the Court Clerk to file a suit or a deed.


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RE: The Price of Lippage

"Who would lay a tile floor on a surface that isn't level?"

Your local Craigslist is full of them ! And they can start tomorrow for 2-3 bucks a square foot.


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